Barack Obama, President Obama — January 4, 2012 at 7:30 am

President Obama signs bipartisan pipeline safety bill into law


In a rare act of bipartisanship, both the House and Senate recently passed H.R. 2845, the “Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act of 2011.

According to the White House, “this bill doubles the maximum civil penalties for violations of Federal pipeline safety laws, authorizes the Transportation Department to issue various regulations related to leak prevention and detection’ and reauthorizes various programs of the Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.” Yesterday, President Obama signed H.R. 2845 into law.

When we say at DOT that safety is our number one priority, we are not kidding around. And today, as part of that important goal, President Obama signed into law the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty, and Job Creation Act.

Last April, following several fatal pipeline accidents, we called upon U.S. pipeline owners and operators to conduct a comprehensive review of their oil and gas pipelines to identify areas of high risk and accelerate critical repair and replacement work. We also convened a Pipeline Safety Forum with state officials, industry leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss steps for improving the safety and efficiency of America’s pipeline infrastructure.

In one of their final actions for 2011, the House and Senate passed a pipeline safety bill consistent with the legislative proposal we submitted to Congress last year. This legislation gives the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), an important part of DOT, stronger enforcement tools and increases civil penalties for pipeline operators who do not meet safety regulations. It’s another terrific step forward for greater pipeline safety.

Not only will this legislation help keep America’s communities safer; it also helps give pipeline operators the certainty they need to run their systems more effectively.

To advance pipeline safety, the bill doubles the maximum fines that pipeline operators face for safety violations. The Bill requires PHMSA to issue new pipeline safety standards requiring operators to install automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves and excess flow valves in new or replaced transmission pipelines. As U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller said, “Communities can rest a little easier knowing that Congress has implemented tougher safety rules.”

The law is not without some criticism but, in general, it garnered wide support across the board. It appropriates $505 million, most of which are offset by fees paid by pipeline operators over the next four years. It also authorizes PHMSA to collect about $10 million during that time to recover costs incurred conducting safety reviews on a pipeline project in Alaska.